SO HOW TO FIX IT?
Programmers are available in several forms, they can be HAND HELD devices, or PC SOFTWARE. And both do the same thing.
However there are always more than ONE version.
To confuse matters more, there is often a few in between levels too. Like A B C versions.
Anyway the conclusion here is that the DUMMY END USER/DEALER level programmers are a waste of your time, but getting hold of the OEM level programmers is difficult. Or in the case of Pride Mobility impossible. For this reason I wouldn't ever advise anyone to buy any Pride Mobility product.
This module above (or one very similar depending on the manufacturer) lives under your powerchairs seat. Or somewhere! This is the power controller, that controls the current and drives your powerchair. Its this thing you are actually programming. In some cases the data is stored in the joystick pod too. This is where the computer lives! You program Via the joystick pod generally.
THAT SAID, HERE'S WHAT CAUSES YOUR DRUNKEN SAILOR
PROGRAMMING SETTINGS -- WHAT THEY DO, AND WHY YOUR POWERCHAIR DOESN'T STEER PROPERLY!
These are END USER / DEALER / A-level Programmer settings. There may be more settings available. These are the ones that matter. Different systems vary slightly, they may have different names for the same functions etc, but basically these settings are available one way or another on ALL programmers. This will help steering slightly but will not cure your steering accuracy issues alone. These are actually based on an older Pilot Plus system but apply to all.
a) ACCELERATION. This is the rate of forward acceleration. And only HIGH SPEED acceleration. At small joystick deflections or set to a slow speed this makes no difference there's another setting for this later on. It works when you jam the stick forwards. Normally this is set to a low value like 40 (out of 100). I set mine to 100 (max). it feels too much at first. After a week you will want more. At least I do. You choose what you are comfortable with. If you want wheelies this is it! If a waitress catches the control stick or small kid grabs the control you may well run over someone so be warned.
You don't HAVE to jam the stick forwards though. Its like a cars throttle. It goes both ways. Contrary to the opinion of many, accelerating hard does NOT use more battery power in general. Accelerate twice as hard and you use twice the power. But for only half as long to achieve the same speed. It takes the same amount of energy to achieve your end speed of 6 or 8 mph no matter how fast you do it in the end. Basic physics. It takes more power for less time. Net result = same. Unless you KEEP doing it for fun (wheelies!)
b) DECELERATION. This is the rate of slowing down when you are travelling forwards fast and you return the stick to the centre. I set mine to 20, (from 100) which means it doesn't slow very fast. It does still slow down fast when you pull the stick right back as this is not effected here. (that's later!) The reason I choose a low value is because its smoother and you can let go for a split second without sliding forwards off the wheelchair or slowing down too fast while you open a beer or whatever... Decide if you want yours to slow faster or quicker and adjust to suit your taste. test at highest and lowest settings to get a feel. See what's best for you.
c) TURN ACCELERATION. This is one of the multitude of settings the manufacturer chooses that makes the chair safe and smooth for those that can't drive a powerchair. Its for joystick mashers without control. Those that think a joystick is a switch. It adds a delay, or ramp time to your control input. This is BAD! And very hard to control! It works at the high speed end, or with full stick deflection.
There are a bunch of different turn acceleration settings in this list. This particular one causes the right or left turn you want, or the "correction" you just tried to do, to hit a doorway for e.g. to respond very slowly at first. So you then push the stick left or right and at first little to nothing happens. Its a timed delay. Its stupid. If you then don't add any more turn on the stick (you keep it with the same amount of turn) the wheelchairs turn begins to accelerate just as it should have turned from the beginning! But it didn't so you already added more... It causes you to over control as nothing was happening! STUPID! Set to 100 or max to disable it. Then its direct. Only at high speed though. There's a SEPARATE setting for low speed... This needs OEM version later on in this list.
As a user it feels like nothing much happened at first and that door / tree is getting closer! So you intuitively turn harder! Now all hell breaks loose because the first correction was correct all along you just needed to wait... And you just added some more, so you now change direction more than you wanted to do. And are heading for the other door frame or tree at about 6mph. So to remove all this turn acceleration completely and make the "turning" truly proportional to the control stick just set it to 100 percent. That is off. Zero delay. Thank god... One out of the four delays (accelerations) fixed!
This way you get instant and positive response that stops you from over controlling while you wait for the chair to do something... In other words the powerchair turns by the amount you tell it and does so when you tell it! This effects the high speed end only. It will still be delayed on / at all other speeds. That setting that makes this work at slow speeds comes later.
d) TURN DECELERATION. You remember that door frame that the settings above made you aim at by mistake? Well this one here makes damned sure you hit it. Seriously!
You realise that you are aimed at the door frame so you try to stop turning towards it. But no, this setting means that the control stick being returned to the centre or even the opposite direction has no immediate effect! Turn Deceleration means it DELAYS your panic correction...
It delays the turning and continues to turn AFTER you wanted to stop! So it keeps on turning left or right while you panic and lose a few more knuckles on that door frame! Who invented this stuff? To turn this off as well you just need to set it also to 100. MAX or off. That disables it. Now when you want to stop turning the chair agrees with you and it stops turning when you tell it to. Cool or what! Keep your knuckles! set it to 100. This only effects the faster speeds. There's a separate setting for smaller speeds/stick deflections to get rid of later on!
Downside of the above two settings That waitress again. Now if she catches the joystick it will jump left, right and forwards! So you need to be very aware of what's happening around you. This effect the high speed end only. The five LED speed setting on a typical Penny and Giles Controller and has less effect as you choose the slower speeds. Or large joystick deflections. The settings that effect SLOW SPEED turning is later on in this list..
e) FORWARD SPEED. Maximum speed depends on this being set to 100. or Max. Or whatever. The chances are your chair will be set to 100 already unless you bought it used. The thing that changes maximum speed is the motors gearing, So you cant make it have a faster top speed like this. This only effects the maximum speed.
f) MINIMUM FORWARD SPEED. Effects full speed (stick fully forwards) when set to the number 1 speed setting One LED lit on P and G. Pilot Plus for e.g.. Or the speed you go at small stick deflections on some systems. The best balance seems to be 30 as I see things. Fast enough for moving about slowly indoors. And safer when that waitress is about! Because it will still have some speed of response and power once all of these settings are changed even on the lowest speed setting.
g) MAX REVERSE SPEED. Sets the fastest your powerchair can go in reverse. On the fastest speed setting. Just like a front drive wheelchair going forwards a rear drive one going backwards is inherently unstable... So don't set this above 60 (that's what I use) or one day your chair will try and spin around and go forwards and tip you out. ) Go on, ask me how I know! Set this to the reverse speed you are comfortable with.
h) MINIMUM REVERSE SPEED Sets the fastest you can go in reverse when your speed setting shows 1 LED or its slowest setting. It feels balanced when its set to 20.
i) MAX TURNING SPEED. This sets the rotation speed of your chair as seen from above. When your speed setting is at the max - or 5 LED lights and full stick deflection. After a lot of testing I use 45. You need to experiment in daily use to get this the best for your particular chair. It will need to be set lower than it was before if you remove all the delay/acceleration above. Possibly much lower. Test! It controls the RATE or speed that your chair turns. Not the delay/acc. Only its maximum spin speed. Set it to what you are comfortable with. Higher makes the steering more sensitive, but with all the delays, accelerations etc set to 100 or off this need not be set high.
j) MIN TURNING SPEED. This effects the rate of turn at the slowest setting or with the 1 LED lit on a typical Pilot plus / Penny and Giles system. Mines set to 25.
k) PRESET? NO! if you do everything goes back to some default settings and we really don't want to do that...
l) SLEEP TIMER Nothing is more annoying. Mines set to 0m Why would you want it to go to sleep? Joystick becomes inoperative and you need to turn it off and back on again. Some may want this. I don't. Remember all systems are different. This one is Pilot Plus.
m) JOYSTICK THROW. Should already be set to 100 leave it like this or some of the stick movement has no effect. Don't know what the point of that could really be unless you have very limited hand movement.
n) STEER CORRECT Set to 0. Used to compensate for the chair tending to go left or right if both motors are not equal. Personally I would rather fix the motor problem!
o) READ TIMER. Go on you know you want to! Mine reads 4405 hours on this chair - the other two read a bit less. email me and tell me how many yours says and how long you have had your chair. Not sure what it actually times because it seems to go up slower than the actual time you use your chair. Maybe it times only above say half power or something. Anyway its interesting to compare! email@example.com
p) READ FAULT LOG Try it. There will be one or two. most mean nothing much other than you turned it on without the joystick centred or with the brake on, etc. I will post a list on this page soon or the read ERROR codes and pod flashing light codes.
End of the interesting "user" / "dealer" programmer settings.
These wont have made much real difference alone. You also need the following OEM turn delays etc removing:
currently being updated
These are OEM LEVEL Programmer settings.
There may be more settings available. These are the ones that matter. Different systems vary slightly, they may have different names for the same functions etc, but basically these settings are available one way or another on ALL programmers. This will help steering slightly but will not cure your steering accuracy issues alone. These are actually based on an older Pilot Plus system but apply to all. You need to do the above as well as these:
Change the settings here incorrectly and you can make the chair dangerous and burn out motors, wiring and controllers. And its obviously going to invalidate your warranty and scare certain other more "corporate" online so called "experts" to death! So don't do it then! Your choice. But this is the part that turns your gutless ill steering imprecise powerchair into something completely usable!
a) ENGINEER MENU? (OEM MENU) Yes! This is important if you want to regain any semblance of proper control. As above there are yet more programming options that allow you to remove all the awful delay/accelerations when turning or trying to stop turning, in this case at the slower speeds as well.
b) CURRENT LIMIT. This can limit the maximum current the controller supplies to your motors. If you have a 50, 80 or 100 amp unit then it should already be set to the max. 100A in my case. I did find one chair that was set lower apparently because of a continual overheating problem by an "engineer" turns out that the "engineer" had set the temp fold back too low in a previous session... of which more later. Can be set low on purpose to limit maximum torque (power) for kids, mentally retarded etc. Otherwise set to maximum or curbs, thresholds and ramps become pretty difficult. Maximum isn't enough anyway!
c) MINIMUM CURRENT, Mines set to 100. Controls maximum current allowed. That appears to make no sense does it? That's because its the maximum current delivered with 1 SPEED Led lit on your controller or at its slowest speed setting. So less than maximum gives lower power (torque) when set to slow speeds. (less torque available which is "safe" but useless for ramps, steering etc) You WANT power but not speed to manoeuvre indoors on slow settings... So set to max.
d) TEMPERATURE FOLD BACK? As the controller has to control a large amount of energy it gets hot. Its not 100 percent efficient. So climbing hills, especially on a hot day for example can cause the controller to get hot. To protect itself it then drops to a reduced power level (your chair feels gutless!) until it cools sufficiently to go back to normal. The standard setting is a very conservative 55 degrees on most powerchairs. Depending on powerchair model and control system.
Well the manufacturers don't want to be replacing these controllers under warranty so its a good safe figure "for them". Its too low for me. Thing is it causes me grief because I am an animal! It cuts in and slows me down in summer if I am working the powerchair hard. I have had mine set to 70 degrees C on 3 different powerchairs that have worn out 10 sets of motors (not through heat but wrecked mechanical couplings / gearboxes etc) and 15 sets of batteries in about 12 years and never had one controller fail yet. The controller doesn't measure motor temperature just its own temperature. Motors don't get very hot anyway. So if you suffer power loss in sport, on hills, set it a little higher. It will be fine. But if it DOES fail, don't blame me! Your call! Life's too short for a safety Nazi Manufacturer "safe" settings...
I accept the small risk and don't care if it fries! In 12 years of abuse none have done so yet. If you are careful and worry about these things leave it alone! Or raise it a little.
e) TIMED FOLD BACK. Mines set to 15 seconds. This drops the maximum current to a (chosen elsewhere) lower level after 15 seconds if your motors are stalled. It is supposed to protect the controller, but more so the motors and wiring from excessive current burning them up if say you reverse to a wall and try to push it down... 15 Secs is plenty to get up a curb, or to wheelie away from a standstill. Nothing else uses that much current other than turning on a ramp, or thick carpets or grass. Standard setting is 30 Secs on mine which is too long. Your choice!
f) CL (CURRENT LIMIT) PERCENT.When the above stall condition happens (or when overheat happens as set above) this is the amount the current is limited by to allow cooling to happen. Standard setting is 50 percent on many chairs. Its a sensible figure. Mines set to 80 because I have more sense than to overload stalled motors for more than a few seconds. If I do I smell burning or hot wiring then I would stop murdering it! Most are set much lower so your chair goes very sluggish...
g) MOTOR COMPENSATION. If in any doubt DON'T CHANGE THIS!
This SHOULD be set correctly by the manufacturer. Unfortunately that isn't always the case as explained to me by an expert in control systems at Penny and Giles Controls who actually make these control systems. What it does is to "sense" the power (amps) needed to overcome an obstruction or a carpet/threshold without you needing to "add power" manually. Based basically on motor impedance. Its not critical really, but too much can cause a lack of control. Only change this in small amounts and start low if unsure!
Many Powerchair Manufacturers only make frames and seats. Everything else such as control systems they buy in. And this compensation figure is not set in stone either, unlike a certain other so called online "expert" would rather have you believe. My original 12 year old F55s powerchair was sent out to the public for years with a compensation setting that was way too low for the old 2 pole motors that it was fitted with. Original Compensation Setting was 40m/ohm. With this setting the chair would barely respond to the joystick at all. It was frankly almost unusable. And the reason that I was talking to Penny and Giles controls www.pgdt.co.uk in the first place.
They advised my to turn up the compensation to double that figure. At least. They advised 80 to 95. I finished up at 120 m/Ohm. At that setting it was much more responsive and controllable without being jumpy. If you have an F55 with 2 pole motors you can try this. If you have 4 pole motors 40 to 45 is correct! More makes it very dangerous. So only try this if you know which motors you have.
Most Wheelchair manufacturers know little about this stuff so it seems, they just buy it in. Or have it made and "branded" for them. They know how to make all the metalwork and braketry that they sell as wheelchairs. (heavily and badly mostly!)
Changing these compensation setting will not make your chair "faster" because you can only get your 80 or 100 amps maximum depending on your controller and no more. But it will allow you to actually "access" the 100 amps when you want it! To manoeuvre. If you have an early 2 pole motor F55 powerchair you can (and sunrise advise) you to retrofit the later 4 pole motors. And since the compensation setting for these is 40 anyway (the same as the old chair was originally set to) they work massively better! For most powerchairs it will already be correctly set.
If you have 4 pole motors already then you can try 45 to make it slightly more urgent in control response if you want a little more suddenness in your chairs response, I use 50 because I am a hooligan and I am fat which damps the chairs response somewhat! Anyway all at your own risk of course.
It works like this... The larger the number you use the more responsive the chair is and the more jerky it becomes. The smaller the number the more smooth and gutless and less urgent it becomes... Change it in small steps ONLY and test for a day or so... Or leave it alone. Its supposed to match the motors Impedance. But they don't always get it right.
h) BATTERY MENU. Unless you are using some strange batteries or different resistance cables I would leave this set to stock settings which is actually not set at all on some chairs!
i) GAUGE CALIBRATION. This allows you to fine tune the battery gauge. its set at 100 which is great for the stock Sonnenschein / MK deep cycle batteries that most use. I use some Hawker Odyssey AGM batteries because I like wheelies and you get less voltage drop under load and they can be safely charged at 30 amps+ (90 percent full in less than an hour) they have a slightly higher charge voltage but a very slightly lower voltage in use. My gauge often reads a little low when in fact this is normal for these types of batteries. I could correct that here if I wanted to, but as I know what's really happening I don't bother.
j) PARK BRAKE TRIP should be yes. Although it doesn't seem to make the slightest difference it trips anyway.
k) FRONT DRIVE No obviously. Uses a different algorithm for the naturally unstable front wheel drive powerchairs. And you wouldn't want one of those things. Ever driven a fork lift truck?
l) FAST BRAKE RATE mines 100. If I jam the stick back its because I want to stop fast! It just locks up the wheels. Choose whatever makes you happy!
m) SOFT STOP. yes. Slows you down sensibly if you turn it off or pull the cable out. Stops you falling out!
n) SET INHIBIT:Active short YES or leave it as it is.
o) PROFILES: I have none 0 -- not sure why you need them. If you are reasonably competent and your chair is PROGRAMMED CORRECTLY you will only need one profile for everything. YOUR CHOICE!
p) SWAP MOTORS.Don't. It makes everything reversed and is very confusing. Unless you turn the seat to face the other way... Try it for a laugh but don't blame me when you break your legs.
q) BRAKE VOLTAGE12 -- don't try 24 you will probably fry your brakes electro magnet. At least on MY chair. Leave it at whatever the manufacturer chose. IF YOURS SAYS 24 leave it there. DON'T CHANGE THIS
r) MINIMUM ACCELERATIONthese next few setting make a huge difference to controllability at indoor speeds and when set to the lower end of the speed range (1 LED) I set it to 100 so it goes when I tell it to and not when it decides later on.
s) MINIMUM DECELERATION Same as above 100. I want it to slow or stop when I choose to do so. Not a little later on when it feels like it.
t) MINIMUM TURN ACCELERATION. This is the same as the Max Turn Acceleration in (C) above but it causes a delay in steering input at the slow speed end of control. At slow speeds and small stick movements. Set to 100 to take back proper accurate steering control and get rid of the delay! Less than 100 just means it doesn't turn when you do or at least as quickly as you do. So you add more turn. Then it catches up later as you loose 3 fingers on the door frame.
u) MINIMUM TURN DECELERATION As above only this time it keeps your chair turning long after you chose to return the stick to the centre! If your car did this you would be killed. This effects the slow speed response only. After these changes you will be amazed that your chair will steer positively on thick carpet and on the slowest settings... Set to 100 to get rid of the damned thing forever. Then your chair will directly follow the joystick even on the slow setting.
v) CLEAR TIMERWhen you fit new motors, or brushes or batteries or whatever it can be useful, But why not just put the date on the components and write the current hours next to it as I do in cd writing pen...
w) ERASE FAULT LOG What it says! After you fix the "fault" as such.
x) PRESET ENGINEERING MENUNo! You will be back to default setting whatever they may be.
DO ALL OF THIS, AND THE JOYSTICK WILL JUST BE A LINEAR, PROPORTIONAL CONTROL STICK IN WORKING IN REAL TIME. OR AS CLOSE AS ITS POSSIBLE TO MAKE IT. JUST LIKE A CAR OR RC PLANE ETC. ITS A REVELATION!
Not all of these settings above will suit you, but they are what works best for me -- the idea is that you understand what does what!
I give out this hard won information because I know how a badly a stock programmed powerchair performs compared to mine (yes they are ALL like that even yours!) and wish to help as many people take charge of their own lives as possible. It will of course upset any corporate types, Safety Nazis and the sort of people that worry about Warranties. However life's far too short to have your abilities curtailed by all the "normal's" in society. Ignore them and do your own thing as I do. AT YOUR OWN RISK OBVIOUSLY! Its your choice and your right.
And finally an email I received after re-programming a young lads powerchair for him by post... He mailed the controller and I set it to my preferred settings (another Sunrise F55 Powerchair - a known quantity):
And everyone that does this says the same thing. I personally have set up (re programmed) here at my house with the user present many, many powerchairs. (Free of course! With a signed disclaimer), Every last one of them said how much nicer and how much more controllable and usable it was after we finished testing and finally adjusting things to suit them. Nobody ever wanted it put back to their old settings.
Unfortunately the vast majority of powerchair users never have their chairs programmed correctly. Everyone is different and the correct settings for YOU are the ones you need. Having a "tech" guy blindly fumbling with your settings for half an hour isn't the answer. Or even close to it.
It can take months of trial and error and fine tuning to get the powerchair to its/your best settings. The only way to do this is for you to have your own low level "full" programmer. And here is the problem.
The manufacturers of these control systems, and the manufacturer of the powerchairs don't even really want you to know they exist. God forbid you actually get hold of one. So buying the programmer you need is very difficult if not impossible for the average end user. How you get hold of one is the big problem.
What the Powerchair manufacturer SHOULD do is offer these tools with each chair. Even if it requires a signed disclaimer, etc. for their own peace of mind. All that's needed is a set of instructions explaining EXACTLY what effect each setting has. Its really not very complicated, People are not incapable. Give them the chance to CHOOSE their own settings and own risk levels.
There is usually a Service Centre or Technical Repair Guys Version This covers everything we will need to change to get some accurate control over your Powerchairs steering etc. Its difficult to persuade anyone to sell you one of these. Which amazes me! You NEED one to correctly configure your powerchair. Its simply not possible to "take charge" and get rid of all the delays and accelerations without one. This means all your door frames will be damaged since you cant control the chair accurately. And yes they are ALL like this. In Penny And Giles speak this is a PP1b version.
There is also usually an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) version. It has a few more settings still although not many and none we will be requiring! But you don't have to use them. So either the PP1b or the OEM version are ideal. Sometimes there are just two versions. Depending on system. Either way you NEED the most advanced one.
The BASIC "END USER" or DEALER programmer is a waste of everyone's time and money if you are looking to get some proper control - especially low speed accuracy through doors etc. Because it doesn't allow access to a level called the "engineering menu" which is absolutely essential.
The first section here (below images) is the (important) settings and tells you what each setting actually does and why your powerchair has a mind of its own. Later on is the second section which is the more important part, and it is only AVAILABLE on the PP1b and OEM version programming tools.
First some quick screenshots... The Penny and Giles PC based R-NET controller looks like this below: It a lot "longer" than this though! Changing your powerchairs settings is as easy as this. Just understand WHAT you are changing and change one thing at a time! Before you do this Save a copy of your original settings. Or if using a hand held device write them down! Then you can always revert back as needed.
PC Based Pilot Plus (and a bunch of other systems) programmer. Here's what it looks like. Not rocket science is it?